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    20 years, 2 women

    by Sunny on 12th June, 2007 at 12:34 am    

    It was 20 years ago yesterday that Diane Abbot was elected MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She was the first non-white woman MP in the country. Two decades later we have a grand total of… 2 non-white women MPs (Diane & Dawn Butler) out of 646. We have yet to have an Asian woman MP. Jackie Ashley wrote about this in the Guardian yesterday. An event to commemorate this occasion was held at the House of Commons, organised by the Fawcett Society, which highlighted its recently launched Seeing Double project. The project will be looking at whether ethnic minority women face a double penalty from sexism and racism.

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    16 Comments below   |  

    1. Kismet Hardy — on 12th June, 2007 at 6:39 am  

      I always thought seeing double was the unintelligent result of drinking too much but now I see it’s true, drinking too much does make some people act sexist and racist. I just boggled my own mind

    2. Puffy — on 12th June, 2007 at 7:38 am  

      I remember when a black female MP was hoisted from her seat by a an ageing white male firebrand, largely on the vote of an Asian peopulation. Progress?

    3. sonia — on 12th June, 2007 at 11:35 am  

      Maybe the women don’t think of themselves as wanting to be MPs! Perhaps their families and societies are not encouraging it? Perhaps Asian males would not vote for an Asian female? Perhaps Asian women don’t have understanding enough husbands who would want to be political sidekicks? i think ’structurally’ theres’ a lot to be said about what asian families are encouraging for their daughters ( and sons ) i mean hell - its not like too many asian families are letting their kids study anything apart from engineering, medicine, dentistry, oh and nowadays, IT and economics. we seem to be very herd mentality people - my dad would always come back and say ‘ so and so’s son has gone to Texas A&M university to study engineering, perhaps you should as well.’ Yeah right pa.

      In any case, what difference is it making if we have some Asian women MPs? do we know how many asian women are interested in being MPs? Do we just want there to be some Asian women MPs so we can say #there are no prejudices left#? do we think it will improve the lot of asian women? what is our premise here?

      I mean, look at Bangladesh. 2 women prime ministers, keep swapping around, all that power..what bl**dy good did it do bangladeshi women? NOT A JOT. We still can’t pass on our citizenship and neither can we initiate divorce proceedings.

      if there is an Asian woman running for an MP position - should she have to be ‘partisan’ and promise to work on women’s issues?/asian women’s issues? what if she’s not very interested in asian women’s issues? should she have to be because of the colour of her skin? what is this about - representative democracy down to the colour/sex of someone? Or are we thinking about ‘opportunities’ for individuals. Cos i know sure as hell if i wanted to turn into a schmuck tomorrow and get involved in party politics, everyone would be like..’ooh go and look at that asian womens’ shelter’ - or ‘tell us about hijab!’ or write some articles slagging off white feminists or something.

      you just get boxed in by colour and sex don’t ya?

    4. Twining or Black in Blue — on 12th June, 2007 at 12:16 pm  

      Politics like other issues seems to really really care about race issues and gender, especially Asian women. What’s new I ask myself! There’s a song isn’t there, “Man I feel like a woman!”

    5. Twining or Black in Blue — on 12th June, 2007 at 12:16 pm  

      Politics like other issues seems to really really care about race issues and gender, especially Asian women. What’s new I ask myself! There’s a song isn’t there, “Man I feel like a woman!”

    6. Twining or Black in Blue — on 12th June, 2007 at 12:17 pm  

      Sugar I am seeing double, it’s true what Ms Hardy says above.

    7. Tim Worstall — on 12th June, 2007 at 2:10 pm  

      “The project will be looking at whether ethnic minority women face a double penalty from sexism and racism.”

      Well, the Fawcett Society could try reading the footnotes of their own report of two years ago to find an answer I suppose. The lack of BEM (or is it BME, sorry, a little out of touch with the specialist lingo here) women in Parliament is probably best put down to the demographics of the BME female population.

      Of those over 40 (a not unreasonable age to start choosing MPs from perhaps?) the vast majority are immigrants, have never worked outside the home and have no post-secondary education. That’s certainly two and possibly three things that differentiate them from the more traditional pool from which MPs are drawn.

      As you know, the work and education points are most certainly not true of the younger generation of BME women, and I would expect representation rates to rise strongly over the next couple of decades. Just as the number of Hugenots, Catholics, Irish and so on in Parliament did some decades after the initial immigrations of those groups.

      I would say it’s too early to tell whether it’s sexism and or racism, or perhaps that it’s rare for any society to elect ill-educated housewives to rule them.

    8. douglas clark — on 12th June, 2007 at 2:25 pm  

      Sonia at 3,

      you just get boxed in by colour and sex don’t ya?

      Well, you sure as hell don’t! Which is as it should be, I think.

    9. A councillor writes — on 12th June, 2007 at 3:32 pm  

      To be honest, all three major parties would love more black and Asian women MPs and I suspect there’s a fair chance that both Labour and the Tories will elect Asian women next time.

      The problem until know have been that very few have come forward and even when parties have gone looking for them, very few have been willing to run. This is probably a residue of old sexism and racism and possibly that its only now that a number of good candidates are specificially interested in joining the mainstream political process.

      We have one black woman councillor in our group and she’s excellent, she’d like to be an MP, but is very worried about the level of cost, career damage and family damage that it would take to become one. This is very understandable.

      We have a couple of other good black women who are happy to stand in hopeless seats for the council, but if you offer them a chance to stand somewhere where they might win, they recoil. Same reasons as above, but obviously on a lesser scale. After a lot of searching, we might be running our first Asian woman candidate this year, we’ve approached enough over the years.

    10. sonia — on 12th June, 2007 at 3:46 pm  

      heh, its technically BAME now…

      douglas :-)

    11. sonia — on 12th June, 2007 at 3:47 pm  

      good points councillor. parties would love asian female MPs of course - its great being asian and female, no one dares saying anything to you! ;-)

    12. A councillor writes — on 12th June, 2007 at 4:11 pm  

      For instance, the Tories have selected Priti Patel for Witham, which has a notional Tory majority of over 7,000. So assuming she stays the course (and about 5% of selected PPC’s this far out won’t), she should be elected there.

      Labour, of course, has less selecting to do having more MPs, so has selected for very few safer seats yet, but they have selected Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Bow.

      The LibDems have a lot less hopeful seats and a lot less BME candidates around (especially outside of London), although they have picked two Asian men in Birmingham out of the four Birmingham selections so far, although oddly no BME candidate put themselves forward in the LibDems most promising seat in Birmingham despite the seat being over 40% BME and the local party being over 60% BME!

    13. Leon — on 12th June, 2007 at 4:18 pm  

      heh, its technically BAME now…

      Yeah don’t know why because with acronyms you don’t usually use the dead words (like ‘and’, ‘the’, etc) so it should be BME. No idea why its changed recently…

    14. sonia — on 12th June, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

      me neither, it sounds LAME as well!

    15. David T — on 12th June, 2007 at 5:03 pm  

      When Labour brought in rules to require at least one of the major branch posts (Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, or something like that) to be female, we’d often end up begging a woman member to take on the position. Usually, we’d have to promise that she wouldn’t have to do anything, and we’d perform all her tasks.

      It was an absurdity.

    16. Leon — on 12th June, 2007 at 5:11 pm  

      David T, you ever considered writing a bit more on that experience, the practicalities of it on the ground etc? The insight would be appreciated.

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